Tag Archives: definitions

WORDY WEDNESDAY: acceleration vs deceleration

The other day I looked down on my steering wheel to find these two abbreviations: accel and decel. I am sure that these are the formal abbreviations, and I also assume that the two are abbreviations for acceleration and deceleration.

The two words are perfect words for working on two of my favorite “wordy” sub-lessons: spelling and prefix/root studies.

As a self-declared bi-phonic woman, I love to point out spelling rules any time there is the slightest bit of phonetic consistency to them. And, it just so happens, that acceleration and deceleration have a little bit of consistency to their spellings:

1. Hard and soft c
     a. ac/cel/er/a/tion
        i. The first c says kuh because it is followed by a c. (When a c or g is followed by a, o, u, or most consonants, it says its hard sound—kuh or guh.)
        ii. The second c says suh because it is followed by an e. (When a c or g is followed by e, i, or y, it says its soft sound–suh or juh.)
     b. de/cel/er/a/tion–This word only contains one c, and that c makes its soft sound (suh) because it is followed by an e.

2. Both spelled the same from then on–syllable by syllable
    a. After our cel phonemes, the remainder of each word is spelled the same.
    b. Both can be spelled syllable by syllable at that point
       i. er
       ii. a
       iii. tion

3. Thus, you can easily remember how to spell both words.
    a. ac/cel and d/cel
    b. er/a/tion (for both)

+Note: If acceleration only had one c, the first two syllables would look (“sound”) like this: a/sell (ay/sell).
+Note: If deceleration had two c’s, the first two syllables would look (“sound”) like this: dek/sell.

If you are not a lover of phonics or you learned to read and spell through sight words and memorization, you might be bored by now, so I will give you something you can take with you from this “wordy” lesson–deciphering meaning from roots and affixes (prefixes and suffixes).

First of all, remember this: You know more than you think you know!

Applying that to our two words: What do you already know about their meanings:

1. They have something to do with movement (on the steering wheel of a car; you hear them association with physics, etc.).

2. De is a prefix you are familiar with–it usually means the opposite.
   a. de-frost–unfrost
   b. de-value–not to value
3. tion–Tion (and sion words) words are usually nouns
   a. nation
   b. hypertension
   c. limitation

If you already knew those things (and now you do!), take what you already know and add it to what else you might learn about these two words:

1. ac–Prefix meaning toward

2. In physics, these two words have much more technical meanings that we do not need to concern ourselves with for this lesson. (A part of learning is knowing what you do not need to know!)

3. In medical terms, these two words have to do with getting hurt via a collision (still retaining the general meaning of movement).

4. The suffix cel can have something to do with movement or an action
   a. cancel
   b. excel

Okay, you have all of the information to unlock the definitions (and the spellings, thank-you very much!) of these two words.


A. They have something to do with movement (cel)
B. They are nouns (tion)
C. One means forward (ac–toward)
D. The other means backwards or not or undo (de).
E. Acceleration means to move forward.
F. Deceleration means to move backwards (de) or not to move.

Wasn’t that fun? 🙂

*For complete steps on “dissecting” words, see the posts about Character Ink’s teaching methods we call Definition Dissection. Here is a list of prefixes to get you started: http://languagelady365.blogspot.com/2011/01/days-13-14-roots-and-affixes-list.html

Wordy Wednesday: Conscience vs Conscious

I try to use mnemonics, tricks, songs, and jingles to teach parts of speech, homophones, and any other grammar and usage tips that I can. Students (of all ages, including adults!) often remember usage better when a trick or tip is applied.

One of my students’ favorite tricks is for the confusing word pair (sometimes considered homophones, though they do have slightly different pronunciations) conscience/conscious:

The student’s conscience bothered him because he tried to con the science teacher. 

He wasn’t conscious enough to enjoy the delicious treat. 

 In today’s assignment, my students had to write sentences using conscience and conscious (one sentence each). My amazingly clever students had fun with this! Three of them used both words in one sentence and included the “trick” in that sentence too!

1. I conned the science teacher while I was conscious, and my conscience bothered me.

2. He wasn’t conscious of the fact that he conned the science teacher; once he realized he had, his conscience bothered him.

3. He had a guilty conscience after he consciously conned the science teacher. 

Wordy Wednesday: Homo (same); phone (sound)

We tell our students all the time that you know more than you think you know! And that if you take what you already know and apply it to what you do not know, you will soon know even more!

Take the word homophone, for instance.
Homo—means same
Phone—means sound
Thus, homophones sound the same what you hear them. Homophones are words like their, they’re, and there and to, too, and two—words that sound the same when they are spoken but only look different when written. 

I tell my students that homophones “sound” the “same” when you are talking on the phone (and all you can do is hear–you can’t see the words written–either how they are spelled or in context).

We will do a lot of “word dissecting” on LL 365! That is something we begin teaching early in our curricula as it can unlock the meanings of so many words—and helps everybody learn to take what they already know and add it to what they are trying to learn.

The Comma and the “Unofficial” Speech Tag

A comma or not following an “unofficial” speech tag? When you write a true opening speech tag (he said, she responded, he asked), you need a comma separating it from your quoted words:

She said, “I love to write Language Lady blog posts.”

However, if you write an “unofficial” opening speech tag (According to Websters Dictionary, kindness is or Kindness can be defined as), do not place a comma before your quoted words. 

According to Webster’s Dictionary, kindness is “an act of compassion.”

Kindness can be defined as “an act of compassion.”

The “official” rule on this is that other than true speech tags with quoted material following, you can not use a comma between a verb and its object or a preposition and its object:

NOT: According to Webster’s Dictionary, kindness is, “an act of compassion.” That would be a comma between the verb is and its object (predicate nominative in this case…) 

NOT: Kindness can be defined as, “an act of compassion.” That would be a comma between the preposition as and its object (a phrasal object in this case). 

Strengthlessnesses—Longest Word With One Vowel

Wordy Wednesday!

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday! Did you know that strengthlessnesses is the longest word containing only one (albeit very repeating) vowel? Neither did I. And I don’t really care for it. I mean, it is cumbersome to say–and that is a whole lot of e’s and s’s to remember to spell the crazy word.

But I love unique and unusual–and strengthlessnesses is definitely both of those! Here are some vitals about this “longest word containing only one (albeit very repeating) vowel”:

1. It is a noun–did you know that when a word ends in ness, it is almost always a noun? This helps with standardized testing greatly. Ness words are nearly always nouns, so in a “fill in the blank” type of assignment, if the word in question ends in ness, it has to go in a spot where a noun fits.

Tricky Trick to Help It Stick: We have students learn key words to remember things. For instance, to remember that ness words are nearly always nouns, memorize a key word or two that you know is a noun and that ends in ness.

Other ness nouns: happiness, hopefulness, craziness, gratefulness, joyfulness, smartness

2. It has to do with having strength–we teach our students to think about what you already know–anytime–but especially when approaching a new word. Is there anything about the word strengthlessnesses that you already know?
     a. You know what its base means. You already what strength means!
     b. You know that less means less or not having that quality. (We do a lot of root and affix studies here!)
Because of those two “things you already know,” you can know that strengthlessnesses has something to do with not having strength (i.e. less strength).

Note: You know more than you think you know! Repeat this over and over to yourself: “I know more than I think I know. I know more than I think I know.” Use what you know to learn more!

3. It can be spelled syllable-by-syllable (if you are a biphonic man or biphonic woman!): strength-less-ness-es.

4. You can also make up a trick to remember how to spell it, such as “It contains four e’s and six s’s. Or that it has four syllables–which tells you that it will have at least four vowels in it (or y’s acting like vowels)–because a syllable always contains at least one vowel. A vowel is what makes a syllable!

5. You can learn the variations of this word–because you can remember from your vocabulary studies with Language Lady that suffixes (affixes added to the ends of words) might change the SPELLING of the base word (pity is changed to piti in pitiful) but does not change the MEANING of the base word. Even with three suffixes added (less, ness, and es), the base word of strength still means strength.
             a.  stengthless–adjective meaning without strength (less words are often adjectives!)
             b. strengthlessly–adverb meaning without strength (ly words are often adverbs)
             c. strengthelessness–a noun describing someone or something that is without strength (ness words are often nouns)
            d. strengthlessnesses–a noun that means more than one someone or something that is without strength (es makes the word plural).

So there you have it–the longest word with only one repeating vowel. Did you know that you could learn so much from one word? You know a lot more than you think you know! Smile…


Day 122: Wordy Wednesday—SUPER!

More root word learning for this week’s Wordy Wednesday. But before that, I have to ask if you are using what you already know? Are you examining unknown words and asking yourself  if there is anything about that word that you already know—a root, prefix, or suffix?
Today’s root: SUPER, SUR, SUM   
Meaning: ABOVE
What do you already know about this ABOVE root:
  1. surpass—to go above and beyond
  2. summit—above; the high mountain or peak
  3. supersede—to be above in authority,  etc.
  4. superstition—a  belief that is ABOVE the normal
  5. super star—a star above others



day 120: wordy wednesday—root “spec”

Do you remember how I talked earlier about how we (and our students if we are teachers) know much more than we think we do! There is no place that this is more apparent than vocabulary learning!
Root words, and sometimes even syllables, have meaning. And we often already know meanings of bits and pieces that we can put together to gain more knowledge. (If you know a foreign language, you will have even more success unlocking unknown words or parts of words since much of our language is taken from other languages.)
How can you use this concept to help you or your students? When you come to an unfamiliar word, don’t assume that you do not know it. Look more closely at the word. (And help your kids to do the same—question them all the time: “What do you know about the ‘aqua’ part of aquamarine?” [Or even, “What do you know about the ‘marine’ part?”)
Today’s  root is SPEC, SPIC, or SPIT
It means LOOK or SEE
What do you already know about these “spec,” “spic,” and “spit” words?
  1. Perspective—seeing a point of view
  2. Aspect—one part or one thing you can see
  3. Spectator—one who sees
  4. Spectacle—a sight to see
  5. Suspect—a person you see that might be guilty
  6. Others???
Keep reading. Keep asking yourself what you already know!

day 73: send in the cavalry or calvary?

Another confusing word pair–cavalry and calvary. And yes, we will see them written incorrectly over the next few weeks as Easter approaches! How can you differentiate between the two in this Wacky Word pair?

As a Christian, I have a unique way of remembering calvary and cavalry–see it helps you!

1. Cavalry–

a. A group of miliary people
b. We often say, “Send in the cavalry” to indicate help is needed
c. I remember this by remembering that the V comes before the L—Victory comes first if the cavalry comes caValry.

2. Calvary–

a. The hill on which Jesus was crucified
b. I remember this by remembering that the L comes before the V–Calvary denotes Love–CaLvary

day 62: merriam webster online

Want to share a super source for those helping kids with homework, reading a difficult book, teaching…well, really, anybody. It is Merrriam Webster’s Online Dictionary.

Some of the features we like:

1. Type in any word–it finishes them for you (for those who say, “I can’t use a dictionary if I don’t know how to spell the word to begin with”!)
2. Type in any word and get the definition
3. Type in any word and click “thesaurus” to get synonyms and even some antonyms
4. Click on the speaker and listen to someone say the word–we do this every week before we give spelling tests to ensure that we are pronouncing harder words correctly for our students
5. Links at the bottom of the dictionary page for each word with more sites, etymologies, and much more!

Trust me…you will love Merriam Webster Online!